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AMD has something for everyone with its new tri-core processors, but quite a lot is still marked "tentative"

AMD picked up big headlines the day before Intel's Fall Developer Forum with the announcement of its upcoming tri-core processors. 

AMD's original release did not specify if this tri-core processor, code named Toliman, would be a totally new processor or merely a stripped-down version of the existing Agena core. The answer, it appears, is both.

In an embargoed corporate roadmap forwarded to DailyTech, details of these new triple-core oddities came to light.

The first triple-core processor, Toliman, is essentially a core-disabled version of the Agena quad-core processor. It includes a full Agena package, including the 2MB of shared L3 cache, with one core disabled.

Toliman, which will eventually herald the AMD Phenom 8000-product name, is scheduled to launch in February 2008 with mass availability in March.  AMD representatives, speaking on conditions of anonymity, confirmed the initial  2.4 GHz Phenom 8700 and 2.3 GHz Phenom 8600 tri-core processors will launch with a 95W thermal envelope.

In late 2008, AMD will shift almost all of its 65nm quad-core offerings to 45nm.  AMD will then follow up these initial quad-core offerings with 45nm dual-core and triple-core processors in 2009. 

The first of these 45nm tri-core processors, codenamed Heka, will launch with DDR2 and DDR3 support.  However, AMD guidance also details that Heka will ship with two different varieties: one with a shared L3 cache, another without.  All 45nm quad-core AMD processors incorporate shared L3 cache, with the exception of the Propus family processor.

AMD guidance goes on to state that all mainstream Phenom quad-core processors, both with shared L3 cache (Deneb) and without (Propus), shipped in 2009 will feature DDR3 exclusively.  Heka, on the other hand, will feature a mix of DDR2 and DDR3 support.

Unfortunately the answers for tri-core only raise further questions.  While Heka has a unique codename, it seems to be a combination of cut-down Deneb and Propus quad-core processors. The logical conclusion would be that Heka is merely excess or defective Deneb and Propus processors from the 2008 launch. 

Yet AMD's roadmap goes on to detail one more chip: RegorRegor, which has always been described by AMD as a dual-core version of Deneb, will make its debut with variable shared L3 cache and a mix of DDR2 and DDR3 support. Could it be that Regor is a core-disabled version of Heka, which is already likely a core-disabled version of Deneb/Propus?

One AMD representative declined to comment on these 45nm processors, stating that 2009 processor launches and specifications are still "tentitive."

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RE: Three cores?
By Jacerie on 12/4/2007 8:09:41 AM , Rating: 0
The main thing that everyone seems to be overlooking is the fact that our computers, being binary systems, are designed to work in binary increments.(ie. 1,2,4,8,16...) Adding a random 3rd core into this mix will completely jack-up the way our systems have been designed to operate.
Maybe AMD is trying to revive trinary processing. I don't know, but it doesn't look good at this point.

RE: Three cores?
By Targon on 12/4/2007 8:56:46 AM , Rating: 2
That is not a correct assessment of how things work when it comes to additional cores. A big factor is how the cores talk to each other, and how well the cache is used between the cores. In the case of cores and multi-threaded applications, the more cores you have will allow for a better distribution of program threads between the cores.

When it comes to memory or other components, there are technical reasons why you see increases that follow the binary increments, but in this case, you just have an extra core that the OS can assign threads to.

The real problem that AMD needs to address is getting clock speeds up, since single-threaded applications will still run on only one core, and a 2.4GHz Phenom quad-core will probably run a single-threaded application slower than a 2.8GHz Athlon 64 X2(depending on what other applications are running at the same time).

RE: Three cores?
By DM0407 on 12/4/2007 9:11:17 AM , Rating: 2
Can we expect similar real world performance from a tri-core?

Unless your running multiple programs at once, the computer would not be able to take advantage of all 4 cores, with the same L3 Cache as a 4 core, and most programs designed to run on two cores (if that), couldn't a chip like this run with little to no noticeable difference?

Especially in current gen games, there most likely would be no difference in a similarly clocked tri/quad core chip. We'll see when they get some reviews done.

All the benefit of the technology, larger cache, lower price. I would buy it! Hell if you guys don't want it, that will only drive the price down more. Cheaper for me!

In the meantime, AMD has now become the largest manufacturer of paper and ink....

"If they're going to pirate somebody, we want it to be us rather than somebody else." -- Microsoft Business Group President Jeff Raikes
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